What’s the difference between ISIS and Asaib Ahl al-Haq?
By: Raed Omari
Except maybe for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the reactivation of the U.S.-led global war on terrorism was good news to people around the world, particularly in Iraq and Syria.
We were all concerned after seeing what appeared to be the world returning to the Dark Ages. Mass killings, looting, forced migration, torture, crucifixion and beheadings have been just some examples of the inhumanities resurrected by ISIS. The word “beheading” has no place in the human dictionary anyway.
It is indubitable that ISIS’ predominance in the region, culminated in the proclamation of its caliphate, has been the direct result of the world’s inaction on both Syria and Iraq. It is also beyond doubt that the world’s failure to institutionalize the anti-terror war has emboldened ISIS and other similar groups to act as if they were independent and sovereign states, while killing, robbing and crushing minorities without fear of punishment or prosecution.
There is no need to delve into the reasons why the U.S. and the EU had remained silent on ISIS until recently, suffice to say that their
fear of militant extremism reaching their own doorsteps was what led them to make their long-awaited decisiveness on dealing with terror. What triggered the U.S. airstrikes on ISIS posts in Iraq was the stomach-turning beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley by the Jihadist militia.
In order for the resurrected global war on terror to succeed, it has to be kept aside from the influence of politics
It is better late than never, anyway. We all feared such horrific acts would go unpunished and that ISIS would turn into a reality and untouchable entity one day. Now there is regional and international cooperation to stand firm against the jihadist militia and there is a reactivation of the global war on terror through the U.N. Counter-Terrorism Center and other international channels.
The embodiment of all terror
However, it seems ISIS is the embodiment of all terror. If mass killings, executions, bombings, shelling of civilians and crushing minorities are terror attributes, I wonder why it is that the Iraqi Asaib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous) has not been labeled a terrorist organization.
Until proving otherwise, the Shiite militia has been accused of being behind the two attacks on Baghdad’s northern province of Diyala, one of them on a mosque, which killed dozens of Arab Sunnis. For political and sectarian reasons and with regard to similar violent acts carried by Asaib Ahl al-Haq, the Iran-backed militia could have committed the shooting attack on the Sunni mosque, now referred to as the Musab Bin Omair Mosque massacre.
It is not Asaib Ahl al-Haq alone that matters most in this context. There are other similar Shiite militias in Iraq, including Mahdi Army, Badr Organization and Hezbollah Brigade of similar terrorist and sectarian attitudes that are typified in ISIS and the Nusra Front.
But, again, why have such violent Shiite militias not been elevated to the status of terrorist organizations like ISIS? It may be due to ISIS’ “show off” attitude, its large-scale operations or horrific televised acts as opposed to the small-scale, secret terrorist acts by private Iraqi Shiite militias against Sunni communities.
While the U.S. is in declared war against ISIS, it should be noted that the reason why some Arab Sunnis had subscribed or supported ISIS in both Iraq and Syria was the marginalization and crackdown they long suffered under the Shiite governments. ISIS owes much of its predominance to the Arab Sunnis in both war-hit countries who saw in the Jihadist group a “savior” or even a tool to help them get rid of sectarian regimes.
With the departure of Nouri al-Maliki and the beginning of the U.S. bombardments of ISIS targets, the pragmatic ISIS-Arab Sunnis relationship began to collapse but it might be reinforced again if the “selective” anti-terrorism approach remains the norm.
Terrorism is terrorism: it is not confined to a single sect and should not be applied with double standards. ISIS, the Nusra Front, Asaib Ahl al-Haq and the Syrian regime are all terrorist groups, responsible for mass killings, torture and crimes against humanity.
In order for the resurrected global war on terror to succeed, it has to be kept aside from the influence of politics, waged purely in the service of humanity with no other considerations.
Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2